The book club years

A book about book clubs

After all the studying, the OE, and the child rearing – if you are anything like me, you will wake up one day and know that you want more. You want to read again. You want to talk to people about something other than breastfeeding and toilet training. It comes to you in a flash – you will join a book club.

You are not alone in this. Curious as to how many book clubs there are in Christchurch, I phoned around the local bookstores, contacted the WEA Book Discussion Scheme and, finally, sucked the left hand opposable digit. I estimate that Christchurch has at least 300 clubs, with an average of 10 members each: that’s over 3000 book clubbers. There’s even a male book club, but no mixed gender book clubs that I know of ….yet.

With so many of them around, you’d think it would be like falling off a blog to join a ready-made group. But over 30 years, in three book clubs (Cape Town, Durban and Christchurch) I’ve always had to start them from scratch. Need some help with this? Have a look at Christchurch City Libraries’ new book clubs web page which is full of useful tips.

What’s the appeal? It’s the discovery and sharing of great reads and new authors. But there is a lot more to it than that. For starters, creating your own book group means that you have a degree of event control beyond your wildest dreams. I have three non-negotiables:

  • I will not bake for my book club meeting
  • That said, I like a book club where all the other members are great bakers
  • And this is the weird one: I will not read Jodi Picoult (the reasons for this are shrouded in the mists of time and don’t bear terribly close scrutiny)

Truth is: it’s your book club, you can do what you like. You can read prizewinning authors or trashy romances, meet in cafés or at home, eat vegan snacks, drink only red wine, have no books at all and use only e-readers. All you need is a small group of reasonably like-minded readers and you are on your way. Besides the obvious book talk, a book club can be a comfort through life’s challenging times: raising kids, divorces, marriages, career switches and ageing parents. We’re getting older ourselves – at last month’s meeting, arthritis had its little moment in the spotlight.

There are even books  about book clubs:

Even though we don’t always agree on a book (and passions can run high), my book club is my Happy Place and my book club ladies, world-wide, are my friends. You can’t say better than that now, can you?

11 thoughts on “The book club years

  1. linda blackwell 18 October 2012 / 12:09 pm

    that was very interesring reading about book clubs,i would love to find one in my area,ilove books and talking about them so i must find one,its interesting to find what other peaple like to read

    • robertafsmith 18 October 2012 / 2:53 pm

      Try approaching the Book Discussion Scheme – they may be able to put you in touch with a group in your area. Just click on that link in the blog. Otherwise ask for some help at your nearest library. Good Luck!

  2. purplerulz 19 October 2012 / 9:53 am

    Great blog as usual Roberta… I’ve always found the pressure of a set time frame to read a book daunting. I’m quite a slow reader and can be reading several at once! Oh, by the way, my son is in a mixed book club here in Christchurch, and as many are poor students, they have worked their way through the classics that penguin have put out cheaply.

    • robertafsmith 19 October 2012 / 11:12 am

      The WEA lady also got back to me to say that there were some mixed book clubs in Christchurch – so that is good to know.

  3. Allison 20 October 2012 / 1:55 am

    It’s extraordinary the different forms that book clubs can take and how important they become in your life. I was a book club virgin until about 10 years ago because I imagined them to fall into one of two categories: for social show-offs (where the decor outdid the books) or dim-witted gossips. And how wrong I was! I now belong to two very different book clubs where books are reviewed, or not, food is important, or not. But the common thread is that sharing reading experiences has provided the background, as you say, for sharing our lives, often in unexpected ways. Now if only we’d written some of those stories down, we’d have a bestseller on our hands!

    • robertafsmith 20 October 2012 / 6:39 pm

      There are some really interesting variations on the BC theme out there. In one, the “members” meet for a meal once a month (sometimes just for a coffee). There are no books involved at all (some of them only read e-books),They just bring lists of books they have enjoyed over the past month and talk about them. They use smartphones or i-pads to make their own new lists. They don’t need to meet up at all, it could all be done on-line, but they enjoy the evening out. What do you think of that?

      • Allison 21 October 2012 / 4:21 am

        Meeting face to face is a definite must. Otherwise why not just read all the “my top 10” lists on, say, Amazon? But I have to admit that book club sans actual books appeals more and more. Especially when it’s my turn to lug the 6 huge bags full of books to the next venue! Somehow there are always new members “who might not have read” a book that’s been hanging around for far too long. Still love the book in hand feel though!

      • ruwinz 26 October 2012 / 9:31 am

        Book clubs without books… I am a member of one of these – no books at all in any form (not sure if I’m embarrassed or proud of this!). Grandly named BBC (Bookless Book Club), we get together for breakfast or supper, and have a good old chin wag. To redeem myself slightly, I am part of the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind ‘Book Talk’ group (as a sighted helper).

  4. robertafsmith 21 October 2012 / 8:00 pm

    I do enjoy seeing peoples’ homes as well. It was a huge need when we first arrived here and one of the main reasons I formed a book club within 3 months of arriving (with the help of other like-minded souls). Agree, still love that book feel.

  5. Megan Blakie 24 October 2012 / 9:47 am

    Just to let you know…Book Discussion Scheme have mixed groups (male and female). Members of those groups often say they like the different perspectives men and women bring, although often what influences discussion is people’s background and life experiences rather than their gender.

    • robertafsmith 24 October 2012 / 10:53 am

      Very interesting Megan, it just hasn’t happened in any of the book clubs I’ve belonged too – could be an interesting future development.

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